A few years ago, I was traveling across Portugal with a close friend. We went, we saw, we conquered. Being on vacation, beach bum status was in full swing, and our tanning competition was on like donkey kong. Whoever could come back from the trip looking dark AF would win. (Raise your hand if you’re guilty). Every morning we would scout for the perfect spot: maximum sun exposure + proximity to water. On the flight home we compared shades of brown and olive skin tones, and even asked the flight attendants who they thought was darker.
Within a week of being back home, the tan faded, skin peeled, burn burned, and we were both suffering. In hindsight, my only thought is WTF was I thinking? Admittedly, the sun can leave many of us with a coveted darker shade of skin. And while our bodies can absorb some of the sun’s benefits like Vitamin D, they can come with consequences. Since then, I’ve done the research, put balance into practice, and have reaped the rewards of the all the beautiful solar solstice has to offer us. Here’s some food for thought, in hopes that you learn from my mistakes.
There is no such thing as a healthy tan.
When our skin tans, our bodies are actually putting up a defence mechanism in an effort to protect us from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
I.e., tanning = protection against the sun.
With that said, it’s important to note that the sun’s rays are composed of two types of light; visible bright light, and non-visible UV light.
Our bodies can benefit from both types of light, but only in moderation.
Visible Bright Light
- Has been shown to serve as an effective antidepressant against seasonal and non-seasonal depression,
- Can help remedy certain sleep disorders,
- Can help rebalance our circadian rhythms (the body’s internal clock),
- And has been proven to help reduce stress levels.
This type of bright light is visible to the naked eye, and has an effect on our circadian rhythms in that it signals to our brains that light means daytime and darkness means nighttime. Gaining exposure to this light in the mornings, and reducing it in the evening can help keep our circadian rhythms in tune.
Don’t underestimate the effects of the placebo.
At night, the bright lights from our devices have have been shown to throw our circadian rhythms off balance. So reducing the amount of bright light our eyes take in before bed can help us better fall asleep and stay asleep.
Ultraviolet (UV) Light
This type of light, on the other hand, is invisible to the human eye, and yet, is essential to the human body’s ability of producing Vitamin D.
Prolonged exposure to UV light on the skin, however, can lead to sunburn, some types of skin cancer, and temporary + permanent skin damage. Increased UV ray exposure to the eyes can even lead to increased risks of cataracts.
I’m not saying to avoid the sun like it’s the plague — our bodies need it.
- When we absorb the sun’s UV light through the skin, our bodies begin to produce Vitamin D3.
Essential to our health, Vitamin D is a vitamin that gets stored in our bodies’ fatty tissues, and helps us better absorb calcium. Studies now show that adequate amounts of Vitamin D can reduce risks of certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases. The National Institutes of Health recommends about 10-15 minutes of sun exposure, three times weekly.
That’s ultimately what it comes down to; moderation, not deprivation.
In my honest opinion, I think that it is tough to get the recommended daily amounts of Vitamin D strictly from diet. The fact is, there are few foods that are rich in Vitamin D, yet prevalent in our diets. Supplements are always an option, though, some studies show that they don’t give the same benefits to the body that minimal interval sun exposure does.
To me, the “right amount” of sun exposure means the amount before the skin starts to tan. Once tanning occurs, our body is protecting itself from the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays and radiation. Hence there being no such thing as a healthy tan.
Non-Toxic sunscreen and UVA / UVB protection.
Protection again this type of exposure is critical. I’ve experienced the effects firsthand, and have read studies on how it’s turned out worse for others. But at the same token, I also don’t want to slather chemicals all over my body for the days where I’m spending more than 15 minutes in the sun.
Here’s a link to a guide from the folks over at goop, on how to be discerning in the non-toxic sunscreen market.
Some of my faves are:
Why protect from sun damage but welcome chemical damage?
Using a toxin-free product that’s right for your skin type, helps ensure that your skin and body aren’t suffering from harmful chemical effects. This could include anything from throwing our hormone levels off balance, to affecting our metabolisms, and potentially even our reproductive systems.
Nick Joly | Inspired by Nick
be good to your body
The views expressed on this website and all related Inspired by Nick social media channels are the personal views of founder & editor, Nick Joly. These views are for informational purposes only, even in cases of sponsored content. Nick Joly shares all information in good faith. The intention of any and all content produced for this website, for YouTube, and for any related social media channel, is not to be interpreted as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Inspired by Nick is a personal blog, and should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.
photos obtained under a creative commons license, from unsplash.